Illustrations for Senter et al., 2015

Without further ado, here are my *slightly* improved illustrations for the Senter et al.,2015 paper. Under each image, I will write briefly about the illustration as well as additional research and references used for each dinosaur. I worked on a pretty tight deadline for these images, so that’s why, in essence, they’re “not as good as they could be”. (Or is that my perfectionism speaking?)

Also, if anyone wants to see larger versions of these, please go to my page entitled “Art Gallery”. (You can click on the black box with horizontal lines above my name to expand the menu and see the respective link.)

Velociraptor Web


Velociraptor mongoliensis. Proportions are based on Scott Hartman’s 2013  V. mongoliensis skeletal for the most part. (You can see Scott Hartman’s website here: )

The coloration for this particular reconstruction was inspired by a mix of Pied crows, Stellar’s sea eagles, and the facial skin present on Crested caracaras. The pale yellow of the display feathers is based on the research of Matthew Martyniuk,  ( ) in particular, that presented in his book “A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs”.

It’s quite likely that the feathers of most non-avian theropods would not have had many of the bright colors that we see in modern birds. Mainly, this is due to the fact that certain chemical pathways for synthesizing the pigments may not have evolved yet, having a much more recent origin. (At the origin of clade Neognathae, or perhaps even Neornithes, I cannot remember which at the moment.) It would also be due to structural limitations- only non-avian dinosaurs with feathers that have barbules, which can trap air pockets, would be able to produce iridescence, as well as vibrant blues and purples. Feather structure can also add to the vibrancy produced by carotenoids and other pigments. This is why the I also made the black and white on this Velociraptor particularly muted compared to modern birds- it seems likely that this non-volant species had a less complex feather structure than its flying cousins like Microraptor.  (However, I cannot completely rule this out- a recent study (2015, Parsons & Parsons) suggested that juvenile Deinonychus may have been volant!)

In terms of things I would change about this drawing, if I illustrate V. mongoliensis again:

  •  I would make the primary and secondary remiges overlap more accurately, as they do in modern avian wing folding. I’ve changed it to the proper configuration on some of the secondaries, but I should have continued it throughout the entire wing.


  • I would probably omit the feathers on the feet, and make them into overlapping scutate scales (which are repressed flight feathers- see Dhouailly, 2009). I made them feathered, because it’s quite likely that many Maniraptorans had feathered feet, given that it is the primitive condition. But when I think of how Velociraptor lived in a desert environment- the transition of the podotheca from feathers to scales could have been beneficial for thermoregulation in this species.



Parasaurolophus Web


Parasaurolophus walkeri.  In this reconstruction, I used Scott Hartman’s 2013 Parasaurolophus skeletal as a reference for the proportions. The banded and striped pattern on the tail and body was inspired by Bell’s 2012 research on hadrosaurid skin impressions. However, skin impressions for P. walkeri are still unknown, so this similarity is speculative.

I also gave it a speculative flap of skin on the corners of the mouth, as present in extant puffins. You’ll also the notable lack of “cheeks” as present in old reconstructions of this species- this is a direct nod to the theories of Jaime Headden on why all dinosaurs probably lacked such structures. The crest is made of thick keratin and serves as a colorful display structure, similar to how the bills of some extant birds are brightly colored. Otherwise, I felt like muted greens, browns, and beige was the best color scheme, to aid in camouflage.

I’m not sure if the unguals would have shown on the front feet- I’ve read at least one source online that says the unguals were covered in scaled skin, but I cannot find the paper that describes this.  (Update…I’m pretty sure they were. Will need to edit this.)


Caudipteryx Web


Caudipteryx sp. References used included photographs of a specimen supplied to me by Phil Senter. I also based the proportions on Jaime Headden’s skeletal reconstruction of Caudipteryx sp. ( )

The published version had much, much shorter secondaries. I lengthened them on the advice of other paleoartists. To my untrained eye, it seems as though the primaries were quite long in this species (judging from the fossil), and could have even been longer than the secondaries. However, this could easily be a taphonomic artifact. If I were to illustrate this species again, I’d probably make the secondaries even longer than they are here, to fit with a more conventional look.

I’d also probably give it actual tarsal scutes instead of the more rounded scales that I gave it, to fit with what we know currently (again, see Dhouailly, 2009). I’d also probably make the tail feathers longer, as well as have the feathers hide the contours of the body even more.



Dilophosaurus Web

Dilophosaurus wetherilli.  For this particular reconstruction, I only used photos of skeletal mounts supplied to me by Phil Senter. (Unsure of what specimen(s) the mounts were based upon.) I also looked at Jaime Headden’s ( ) Dilophosaurus skull reconstruction, and used that as a reference for how to properly depict the crest.

Overall, this is probably my least favorite reconstruction out of all of them. That’s because, the more I look at it, the more it seems as though the feet and legs are overly long, and they’re also far too flexed. The head seems too small. Oh well, live and learn, eh?




Plateosaurus Web

Plateosaurus engelhardti.  Reference for proportions:  Plateosaurus engelhardti 2013 skeletal reconstruction by Scott Hartman.

Not a whole lot to say about this one. I made it scaled, since its descendants- the sauropods- were scaled as shown by skin impressions (including that of a titanosaur embyro), but there’s still a chance it was feathered or had some filamentous structures.

Color scheme somewhat inspired by Uromastyx lizards. The bright orange along the sides could be a display feature.


Thescelosaurus Web

Thescelosaurus neglectus.  I used a photograph of a skeletal mount provided to me by Phil Senter for the proportions.

Perhaps I gave this one *too* much of a Kulindadromeus vibe, after all, it’s only related to it in the fact that it’s an Ornithiscian, and that’s about as far as it goes, and it was also about three times larger. Nevertheless, I wanted to give it feathers, since it’s quite likely that it had them.

If I had to draw it again, though, I’d make the scale morphology less Kulindadromeus– like, since it’s highly unlikely they had such a similar scale pattern given how distantly related they are. I’d also position the legs a little bit more forward- it looks a bit as though its legs are too far back at the moment to properly balance it?

And yes, if you’re wondering- the quills on the back are a nod to the Saurian game (Currently in development).


Literature Cited:

Phil Senter & James H. Robins (2015). “Resting Orientations of Dinosaur Scapulae and Forelimbs: A Numerical Analysis, with Implications for Reconstructions and Museum Mounts.”  (Figure 5.)   PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144036.  doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144036

Dhouailly, D. (2009). “A New Scenario for the Evolutionary Origin of Hair, Feather, and Avian Scales.” Journal of Anatomy. Vol. 214: 587-606. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.01041.x

Bell, P. R. (2012). “Standardized Terminology and Potential Taxonomic Utility for Hadrosaurid Skin Impressions: A Case Study for Saurolophus from Canada
and Mongolia.” PLoS ONE 7(2): e31295. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031295

Godefroit, et al. (2014). “A Jurassic ornithiscian dinosaur from Siberia with both feathers and scales.” Science Vol. 354: 451-455. doi: 10.1126/science.1253351


Shout outs (Thanks for the valuable information and resources!):

Jaime Headden:

Matt M. Martyniuk:

Saurian team:

Scott Hartman:

Emily Willoughby: (Who serves as a constant source of inspiration for me, since I have watched her art progress over the years and she’s shared valuable knowledge about Maniraptorans!)

Studio Spectre (Stephen R. Moore), for a suggestion on negative space that helped tremendously! Also, for being a very inspiring artist.



One thought on “Illustrations for Senter et al., 2015

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